Calgary-based Rambridge aims for the future of food security with a vertical farming partnership

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Calgary-based Rambridge Wholesale Supply and Netled, a Finland-based company focused on the research, development and design of technologies for controlled environmental farming, have entered into a strategic partnership that will bring Vera vertical farming technology to North America.

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“Vertical farming is the future of controlled environment farming in Canada,” said Brent Parker, president of Rambridge. “As the climate changes and weather patterns, pests and diseases become more predictable, vertical farming represents an opportunity for safe and reliable food production.”

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On Thursday, the public will be introduced to Vera at the company’s factory in southeast Calgary and can sample a selection of vertically grown salads and custom cocktails prepared in conjunction with chefs from the ATCO Blue Flame kitchen, all harvested from the Vera system.

Parker, who bought Rambridge in 2005, is a lighting expert with over 25 years of high-tech experience in controlled-environment horticulture, working primarily with greenhouses.

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The 35-year-old Calgary-based company, which manufactures and distributes a wide range of gardening supplies across Canada – with an emphasis on indoor and outdoor gardening and greenhouse items – is a thriving business. But Parker has been researching vertical farming and a progression of farming methods for many years.

He realized that vertical farming means food is produced locally, reducing the carbon footprint associated with transportation, supply chain costs and water consumption. The market for vertical farming systems in North America is growing rapidly and Parker thinks now is the perfect time to take advantage of it.

He believes the future of food lies in sustainable, healthy sources that are unaffected by climate change and stressed logistics.

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Netled COO Niko Kurumaa says, “Vertical farming is quite simply the future of food. When agriculture is practiced in a fully controlled environment, the impact on our planet is significantly less than that of traditional farming methods. And yet, productivity is higher.

“Partnering with Rambridge allows us to bring our Vera technology to the North American market through a well-established and respected company that is now also able to offer its customers cutting-edge technology as a turnkey service.

The Calgary operation is a demonstration facility for the Vera hydroponics system, a technique in which shallow streams of water containing all the nutrients needed for a plant’s growth flow along its roots.

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Netled’s first vertical farm in North America, it is currently producing a variety of herbs and lettuces in 30 days as a working example for potential customers.

System buyers will be able to grow over 100 tested varieties of herbs, 13 types of lettuce, seedlings and flowers.

Parker and Netled exhibited Vera at the world’s largest GreenTech show in Amsterdam in June and are gearing up for another major horticultural show in Orlando, Florida next month.

Parker, the director of Netled North America, has already had productive meetings with several growers in the United States who are worried about the future of their operations. A farmer who farms on 18,000 acres in California will face a huge problem over the next few years getting an adequate supply of water. Investing in vertical farming is one answer, and converting the field indoors also means there are no weather, quality or pest issues, and no worries about chemical fallout from vehicles.

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Finland is the northernmost agricultural country with only a few hours of daylight and low temperatures in winter, which means the cost of lighting and heating greenhouses is extremely high.

Hence the need for vertical farming, and Rambridge is at the forefront of bringing Vera here.

Remarks:

Field Law has opened applications from community associations, charities and individuals to receive this year’s $75,000 in funding from its Community Funds Program. Giving back to the communities where Field Law operates is a core value of the firm, which has donated a total of $685,000 to more than 100 organizations and individuals for their “pay it forward” ideas. The fund will be distributed to successful applicants in northern and southern Alberta and the Northwest Territories. The deadline for submission is October 3.

David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]

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